This Christmas, as we try to match the perfect gift to the specific person we are buying for, we surely need an ability to discern what gift will please and bless that one. God has never had that problem. He gives “good and perfect gifts.” (James 1:17) Nowhere is that seen as clearly as His gift of His Son to us for the purpose of our deliverance from sin and eternal life with Him. Even the very gift giving we do at this season started with the gifts of frankincense, myrrh, and gold that were given by the wise men. Those men of old who came from the East were probably astrologers who read the signs of the times from the stars and compared what they saw in the sky with the prophecies of the prophets of the past. They saw wisdom in the Jewish writings and after consulting them discovered that a King had been prophesied to come with the exact configuration of stars that they saw. It was well known that the most acceptable gifts to give a king were gold, frankincense, and myrrh, which, although they were very expensive, were all readily available in their neighborhood. These wise men somehow knew that this was the birth of a very special king since even the skies were declaring his birth and they wanted to see him for themselves. So they packed up and used the sky as their map to the new king. When they found Mary and Joseph living in a home (not in the stable) with the child I’m sure they were surprised that this young king was not living in a palace, but they gave the gifts to them anyway. Imagine Mary’s surprise at such expensive gifts which at the time seemed of little use to the child. Wouldn’t some diapers or new clothes or a blanket be a better choice? But God once again gave “good and perfect” gifts. Others have written about the symbols that we now see in these gifts. Frankincense used at the prayer altar in the temple was a symbol of prayer. It was also used as a medicine to heal wounds. Myrrh was used as an anesthetic, a perfume, and, most often, in burial practices. Of course all of them could be sold to support this little family’s flight into Egypt and their time spent there and later for their trip home. God always knows not only the way to provide for us, but often uses His provision to show us something about Himself while showing us something special about ourselves.
God is a giver of gifts: our very selves were formed with God’s hand on not only the way we look but the gifts and talents that are given to us. He doesn’t just give us gifts and talents for ourselves but He expects us like the wise men to use those gifts and talents to bless others. Continue reading